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The land that gave us Plato and Aristotle, also bequeathed us the symposium, or drinking party. The latter still being alive and well today. These days Greece is a country that pivots around its huge tourist industry, and this falls into two types: There are those who come seeking the cultural experience to be gained from visiting ancient monuments, like the Acropolis in smoggy Athens, and there are those who like to party it up on the island resorts. Perfection, as Aristotle observed, resides between extremes, and the person who seeks eudaemonia - the good life in the best of all possible worlds - perhaps does a bit of both. Given the tourist orientation of the country it is important to remember that a good deal of the services laid on to support visitors go into hibernation between late October, and late April, and one should plan accordingly.
Greece is a TESOL hotspot, with a quarter of those sitting the Cambridge First Certificate being Greek candidates. English is not so much a big business, as a myriad of small businesses, and there is an almost overwhelming number of schools. Anybody with a Cambridge Proficiency Exam can become licensed to open a school. Hence, school facilities range from the very basic to the very good, and teachers should not be surprised to find themselves teaching for a school that seems a lot more like a business enterprise than an educational establishment.
Athens offers all the cultural aspects that one could hope for, however, as the pollution capital of Europe this may not be to your tastes. Outside of this there are hundreds of scattered islands, and in looking for schools you could almost put a pin in the map. Any town of, for example, a population of 30,000 will have ten language institutes. So there is a lot of opportunity about, and the further you move from Athens the less rigorous the criteria become.
Because Greek high school pupils must study and pass some fifteen subjects before moving on to the next year, the English tuition in state schools is regarded by many as inadequate and, hence, recourse is made to private institutions or frontisteria, as they are known.
Requirements vary depending on the size of the local market, but in order to qualify for a teaching post one should have at least an undergraduate degree. Increasingly there is a requirement for a TESOL certificate, but this is far from universal. In order to become a registered teacher, and hence work in a state school, it is necessary to have a BA in English and a TESOL certificate.
In frontisteria - the largest market - you can expect to find yourself teaching everybody and anybody, from high school pupils to those who work in occupations related to tourism. The standard can be highly variable, and the motivation - particularly amongst the high school pupils - is often less than what one would hope.
Wages tend to be on the low side, but are enough to support a comfortable standard of living. However, teaching experience is not a requisite for getting a job here. Hence, Greece is not the ideal destination for the career TESOL teacher, but more a place where people go to gain teaching experience and a great life experience.
In looking for a job it is a good idea to consider Greece’s tourist cycle. The best time for job hunting is in January, with a view to starting the following September. Conversely, July is a very poor time to be job hunting. Most schools and frontisteria recruit through agencies, and hence one is best directing one’s attention to agencies, rather than individual establishments.
There are always plenty of positions available to teachers with a TESOL qualification and an undergraduate degree. Despite being a country where nearly everything is accomplished by word of mouth, there are a few agencies and organisations which can be contacted from abroad. These include:
Cambridge Teachers Recruitment, 17 Metron St, 142 42 Athens (210 258 5155), which places 75 teachers a year in schools.
Native English Teachers (NET), 72 Windsor Road, Worthing, West Sussex (01903 218 638), which places 20 candidates in frontisteria a year.
On the spot a good source of local information on jobs the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Language School Owners, or PALSO, and it is worth contacting them on the spot at PASLO Headquarters, 2 Lykavitou St and Akadimias St, 106 71 Athens (201 364 0792). But it is important to note that the Athens chapter has split off and now calls itself EUROPALSO.
Most state schools are not prepared to go through the difficult process of hiring native English-speaking teachers from outside of Europe. However, in some cases it is easier to place teachers from the US than from other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. Non-EU citizens should check with the Belgian consulate in their native country to look for language exchange programs, etc. Americans may wish to contact Interexchange (www.interexchange.org), of New York, who run an exchange programme.
One of the complications is the reciprocal social security system that exists within the EU. High schools are required to register their staff for a social security card and also pay part of their contributions, they are generally not willing to take on anybody who is ineligible.
Becoming ‘resident’ requires jumping through a few hoops, and only those with a bachelor’s degree in either English Lit or Education can consider applying. The process is made somewhat easier if the applicant also has a TESOL certificate. First, a teacher’s permit needs to be applied for. This will require original certificates of your qualifications, plus copies translated into Greek. You also need to have a medical examination. Once the teacher’s license has come through, the teacher must take it with passport and photos to the police station to apply for a residence permit, which takes about a month, and needs, with the medical, to be renewed annually.
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